Happy Birthday Pocket Protest

It’s hard to believe, but our SMS action network is one year old! In that time it’s been given a name – Pocket Protest; grown from nothing to almost 20,000 members; and, most importantly, has given us a new way to mobilise supporters to take action, helping us achieve human rights change.

So as we head into our second year, we wanted to thank you for your support in 2012 and update you on some of the cases we’ve asked for your help with in the past 12 months.

What happened next? Read case updates

New to Pocket Protest? Here’s how it works

Pocket ProtestWe get word through our Urgent Action Network of an activist who has gone missing, a death row inmate whose execution date has suddenly been announced or a government that is about to take a backwards step – such as the recent introduction of an anti-homosexuality Bill in Uganda.


Within hours, we can contact thousands of you by text with details of the campaign – then we watch your responses flood in. It’s still incredibly exciting to see your replies coming back in their hundreds in the first few minutes after we send out a text, imagining phones across the country all beeping away at once - and supporters from Darlington to Dartmouth collectively feeling inspired to do something to stop injustice, protect the vulnerable and save lives.


And – because this is the beauty of receiving an action by phone - telling the people they’re with about the case, or sharing details with friends on Twitter and Facebook.


Once the replies have come in – at first they were in their hundreds; they’re now in their thousands - we gather up all your names and compile them into a one giant fax (they take a long time to send) or email, put out a statement to show the volume of support or even send a telegram – it’s very much old meets new technology – whatever is most likely to put pressure on the authorities.

To join the network, text PROTEST15 and your full name to 70505 or sign up online. Over 14s only please*.

What happened next? Case updates

Azerbaijan: peaceful protesters pardoned

In March, we asked for your help to release Tural Abbasli and other activists who had been arrested for taking part in peaceful protests in Azerbaijan. In June, we were delighted to hear that Tural and eight other prisoners of conscience had been released following a presidential pardon.


We have continued to campaign for an end to the crackdown on freedom of expression in Azerbaijan, which intensified around this year’s Eurovision song contest in Baku. Recently we have been collecting birthday cards and solidarity messages for another activist, Mehman Husyenov, who faces 5 years in prison on fabricated charges for speaking out during Eurovision. Send a message of support and call for the charges to be dropped


Cuba: hip hop brother releasedCuban hip hop group Los Aldeanos at a concert in Madrid 18/09/2010. © Copyright: orianomada - used under a Creative Commons licence 

In April, we heard about Antonio Michel Lima Cruz and Marcos Máiquel Lima Cruz who had been detained for listening to a Cuban hip hop group. On 24 October, Antonio was released at the end of his sentence.


Sadly, his brother has another eight months in prison and their parents continue to be harassed.


China: Chen Guangcheng safe in New York

Chen Guangcheng, photographed in April 2012In May, Chinese human rights defender Chen Guangcheng, who is blind, dramatically escaped from house arrest and fled to the US Embassy in Beijing. You supported our call on the Chinese authorities to honour their pledge to keep him safe. 


Chen is now out of harm’s way, studying in New York with his wife and children.  However, we have been keeping an eye on his friends and family members still in China who have come under pressure from the authorities – including the recent arrest of his nephew, Chen Kegui.


Russia: Pussy Riot – one woman released, two in penal colonies

In July, we first contacted Pocket Protesters about Nadezhda, Maria and Ekaterina of feminist punk band Pussy Riot, who were being held for performing an anti_Putin protest gig in a church. It was to become our biggest SMS action so far.  We gathered over 10,000 names by text for our petition calling for their release and handed it in during a stunt at the Russian embassy the day before their court hearing on 17 August.

 Pussy Riot

The two year sentences in a penal colony they received were unacceptable and disheartening, so we collected messages of solidarity for the women to show that we are still with them and will continue to press for justice and freedom. In reply, we received this message via their lawyer:  


'The fact that the girls got two years and not three as the Prosecution asked or seven [maximum sentence in the Criminal Code article under which they have been tried] demonstrates that your work has brought results…


'Very warm regards and great big ‘THANK YOU!’ for all the support from Maria Alekhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Ekaterina Samutsevich. They said that this support encourages them and helps them to be strong in this difficult time.'


At their appeal hearing on 10 October, Ekaterina was released conditionally, however, jail sentences were upheld for Nadezhda and Maria and the two women have now been shipped to separate penal colonies. Pussy Riot are now a long-term case for us and we continue to call for their release and for all charges to be dropped. See our latest action


Gambia: execution spree stopped

In September we contacted you after the sudden execution of nine death row inmates and the president’s vow to execute all others by mid-September. Once again, we were able to mobilise thousands of you to send a message to the president to stop the upsurge in executions.


On 14 September, President Jammeh announced a conditional moratorium. As far as we know, no other death row inmates have been executed since. Read our response to his announcement


Malala Yousufzai: recovering in hospital

Recently voted Time’s woman of the year, Pakistan teenager Malala Yousufzai was shot in the head by the Taliban for standing up for girls education. She is now recovering in hospital in Birmingham. See some of the heartfelt messages of support you texted in for this inspirational young woman

Malala YousufzaiTo join the network, text PROTEST15 and your full name to 70505 or sign up online. Over 14s only please*.

Terms and conditions

*Texts charged at standard network rate, refer to your tariff for details. Please ask bill-payer's permission. By giving us your number you agree to future communication from us by SMS. To unsubscribe, text STOP  to 70505 at any time. See full terms and conditions

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